According to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA): "As an eating disorder, anorexia is defined as the compulsive avoidance of food. In the area of sex and love, anorexia has a similar definition: Anorexia is the compulsive avoidance of giving or receiving social, sexual or emotional nourishment."
I spent most of 1996 recovering from a titanic breakup and the detriment I'd caused in my life leading up to it. During that relationship, I was unknowingly holding everything together with Scotch Tape, and after it ended I found myself surrounded by numerous tiny pieces of Jodi that demanded immediate attention. Not only did my emotional wounds require healing, but I had to rebuild my life ASAP. After two years of love-addicted dependency upon an Emotional Manipulator I was unemployed and homeless, but determined to put myself together again.
One of the most useful of the aforementioned tiny pieces in need of attention was my degree in advertising and journalism and it was time to put it to use. As a child, I loved magazines and dreamed of one day working for one; luckily, living in Los Angeles provided an opportunity to do just that. I set my sights on an entertainment publication called Buzz Magazine, and harassed the publisher via fax and phone until she hired me as her assistant. It didn't pay much, so I also worked in the makeup department at Neiman Marcus on weekends. A friend of mine let me sleep on her sofa bed for two months while I saved enough money for my own apartment. When I finally moved into my little one bedroom, I had a couch, a mattress, and a set of Pottery Barn dishes- and it was all mine. But I was working seven days a week, struggling financially, and unknowingly suffering from love-addicted withdrawals that I'd mistaken for depression, which I just needed to get over already. And I was self-medicating all of this with alcohol- not a lot, because I couldn't afford a lot, but the glass-of-wine-at-night pattern was slowly creating the groove in my brain that would eventually be labeled 'DRINK WINE = FEEL BETTER'.
I've changed so much in the last six months and I'm still changing - for the better. I have everything that I've wanted for so long. My own place, great job, independence. Except for the stupid thing* I did on Saturday night, I feel pretty grown up. I still worry about what people think - about getting in trouble.** I guess I've had to answer to someone for so long and I'm not used to that not being the case anymore.
*The Stupid Thing: went out with a group of new girlfriends and drank too much, tripped over my high heels on Sunset Boulevard and busted my knee, which swelled to the size of a grapefruit.
**Fear of being scolded, shamed, judged, punished… all leftovers from an emotionally abusive relationship.
Aside from going to work and The Night of the Stupid Thing, I was pretty much keeping to myself in my little apartment with my couch, mattress and 16-pieces of dinnerware. I didn't have lamps or a TV for a while so I lit candles and listened to CDs on a portable boombox (Reminder: It was the 90’s). It was fun and kinda special, until it wasn't. The novelty wore off pretty quickly and eventually I was just a Love Addict nursing my wound with musical accompaniment from Sade and Everything But The Girl. And wine. And I had no desire to date or even think about dating.
I don't feel attractive anymore...It's been almost a year since I've been with a man - [the Emotional Manipulator]. I don't even think about sex anymore, is that normal? I haven't met anyone that I can even imagine being with...I don't want to care about anyone or for anyone to care about me. I don't want to tell anyone what I'm going through because I want to seem like I'm doing well, but I think I'm really depressed. I don't know why. Maybe I'm lonely, but I don't know.
Now from my perspective, I had good reason to protect myself and steer clear of dating altogether; BUT after a year of what I considered abstinence, I had actually become love anorexic, a form of love avoidance.
Ross Rosenberg writes about love anorexia in his book The Human Magnet Syndrome: The Codependent-Narcissist Trap:
Although their intention is to avoid getting pummeled again by the next narcissist, the codependent unknowingly insulates themselves from the very human experience of intimate romantic love. This defense mechanism serves to protect codependents from the cascade of consequences of their poor love choices. By denying their human need to connect and love passionately... they remove themselves from any possibility of close romantic love, healthy or not.
To maintain their anorexia, codependents ultimately must divorce themselves from their emotional and sexual selves. As a result, they starve themselves from the very human need to connect...Such deprivation often leads to long-term mental and relational health problems.
I realize now that throughout my history with love addiction I have experienced several periods of love anorexia. Oftentimes, following intense relationships that culminated in painful endings, I've 'taken time off from dating'. I thought I was being healthy, exercising good boundaries, practicing self-care; but I was actually avoiding all forms of relationships, including friendships. I didn't trust my judgment, as if my instincts were broken. So instead of risking negative interactions with others out in the world, I isolated and spent an inordinate amount of time obsessively abusing myself for my imperfections. One of the symptoms of love-addicted withdrawal is obsessive thoughts about the ex (AKA the qualifying Love Avoidant), and I'd moved that obsessive energy onto myself.
I'm so obsessed with time - what time it is, what I have to accomplish in X amount of time - I can't just enjoy the day. I put so much pressure on myself to be productive and when I'm not productive I beat myself up. I beat myself up for so many things- I make up things to punish myself for - if I wake up later than I wanted to or if I forget to do something, etc. I feel like I don't do enough, like I should be working harder. I want a purpose.
Scribbled throughout all of my journals are lists - So. Many. Lists. Things to do, things to buy, things to dream about buying; places to go, books to read, people to call; and lots of goals. As an Enneagram 3 (known as The Achiever), I'm always working toward something, and usually many things. A snippet of one of these lists from summer, 1996:
Goals: Short term
Move into apartment
Get on my feet
Start savings account
Get a bike
The savings account would have to wait (or so I thought - now that I'm 50 I regret that I didn’t prioritize my savings), as would a bike. Yoga was the easiest to pull off, although the idea of it terrified me. So I procrastinated until early November and took my first yoga class on my 27th birthday. Although yoga would eventually change my life, the first class was at the time simply an accomplishment, something to mark off my to-do list. Little did I know that as I continued taking classes, my emotional Self was gradually healing as my nervous system began to regulate. I was doing something truly healthy, getting out of the house, engaging with others and learning how to breathe, a skill that is highly underrated in our society.
I think that maybe I'm starting to come out of my shell now. I almost cancelled plans with [friends] but I'm making myself go. It's almost as if I have a fear of going out (of exactly what, I don't know)...I've just gotten into such a routine, just going to work. That alone is depressing.
In the anorexic state, codependents are hyper-vigilant about people or situations that could lead to a harmful and dangerous intimate relationship. To that end, they avoid everyday social events so as not to accidentally bump against a vulnerable or threatening situation or person.
So, to summarize: I was unconsciously experiencing love avoidance in the form of love anorexia as I slogged through my love-addicted withdrawals after a breakup with an Emotional Manipulator/Narcissist/Love Avoidant with whom I'd transitioned from a Codependent to a Love Addict. Who knew?! And it's no wonder that my next relationship would be an entirely different experience, one that I chose so carefully, with a person so much like me; he was warm, kind, giving....and codependent.
To be continued.
Thank you for reading ~Jodi
“Love is our essential nutrient.
Without it, life has little meaning.
It's the best thing we have to give
and the most valuable thing we receive.
It's worthy of all the hullabaloo.”
From Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed